Teresa and Carl Pickworth of Whitacre Hall, near Coleshill in the West Midlands took part in LEAF Open Farm Sunday for the first time in 2017. Their 380-acre arable farm is working towards gaining mid-tier stewardship, with ancient woodland, ponds and traditional English bluebells.
Teresa shares here how she prepared for her LEAF Open Farm Sunday event, tips on planning and promotion and reflects on the positive impact it had on public perception and community engagement.
Putting us on the map
We’d been exploring diversification opportunities for a while, particularly a tea room and nature walk. A visit to the Farm Business Innovation Show and meeting Annabel Shackleton, LEAF Open Farm Sunday Manager, persuaded us to give it a go! We thought it would be a great way to trial our ideas and raise awareness – as well as showing that not all farmers have livestock!
We signed up in November and receiving our information and resources quickly from LEAF gave us real focus. By March, we had created a map of the farm and decided where to locate activities. Three weeks before the event, we displayed roadside banners (ordered free from LEAF) and distributed free flyers to local primary schools and the wider community. We used Facebook and also placed an advert in our local newspaper, which was followed up by a local radio interview. Health and safety seemed daunting but the LEAF Host Farmer Handbook made it very straightforward.
Communicating our Messages
On the tours, our agronomist Ross Barton gave talks about how we spray and manage crops. These would often turn into animated discussions with the whole group and it was wonderful to get our message across that we only spray if we absolutely have to!
Raising our profile
There’s no doubt LEAF Open Farm Sunday requires time and effort but it’s definitely worth it. The feedback on the day and afterwards has been amazing. We anticipated 200 visitors but thanks to our extensive promotional work had just over 1,000. Thankfully we had over-catered just in case!
The event really put us on the map as many local people hadn’t realised we were here. We’d already been in touch with our local MP and Mayor about our diversifications projects – they both attended the day and that’s really helped us gain support for our developments.
- Promotion: use your free flyers and posters from LEAF and link up with local schools
- Planning: Map out the route
- Help on the day: We had about 20 friends and family
- Health & Safety: the LEAF Open Farm Sunday Host Farmer Handbook is invaluable
- Finances: the tea room sold out, helping to cover initial costs
Take part in 2018
To find out more about LEAF Open Farm Sunday and sign up to take part on June 10, 2018, visit www.farmsunday.org.